Definition:Field (Abstract Algebra)

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This page is about Field in the context of Abstract Algebra. For other uses, see Field.


A field is a non-trivial division ring whose ring product is commutative.

Thus, let $\struct {F, +, \times}$ be an algebraic structure.

Then $\struct {F, +, \times}$ is a field if and only if:

$(1): \quad$ the algebraic structure $\struct {F, +}$ is an abelian group
$(2): \quad$ the algebraic structure $\struct {F^*, \times}$ is an abelian group where $F^* = F \setminus \set {0_F}$
$(3): \quad$ the operation $\times$ distributes over $+$.

This definition gives rise to the field axioms, as follows:

Field Axioms

The properties of a field are as follows.

For a given field $\struct {F, +, \circ}$, these statements hold true:

\((\text A 0)\)   $:$   Closure under addition      \(\ds \forall x, y \in F:\) \(\ds x + y \in F \)      
\((\text A 1)\)   $:$   Associativity of addition      \(\ds \forall x, y, z \in F:\) \(\ds \paren {x + y} + z = x + \paren {y + z} \)      
\((\text A 2)\)   $:$   Commutativity of addition      \(\ds \forall x, y \in F:\) \(\ds x + y = y + x \)      
\((\text A 3)\)   $:$   Identity element for addition      \(\ds \exists 0_F \in F: \forall x \in F:\) \(\ds x + 0_F = x = 0_F + x \)      $0_F$ is called the zero
\((\text A 4)\)   $:$   Inverse elements for addition      \(\ds \forall x \in F: \exists x' \in F:\) \(\ds x + x' = 0_F = x' + x \)      $x'$ is called a negative element
\((\text M 0)\)   $:$   Closure under product      \(\ds \forall x, y \in F:\) \(\ds x \circ y \in F \)      
\((\text M 1)\)   $:$   Associativity of product      \(\ds \forall x, y, z \in F:\) \(\ds \paren {x \circ y} \circ z = x \circ \paren {y \circ z} \)      
\((\text M 2)\)   $:$   Commutativity of product      \(\ds \forall x, y \in F:\) \(\ds x \circ y = y \circ x \)      
\((\text M 3)\)   $:$   Identity element for product      \(\ds \exists 1_F \in F, 1_F \ne 0_F: \forall x \in F:\) \(\ds x \circ 1_F = x = 1_F \circ x \)      $1_F$ is called the unity
\((\text M 4)\)   $:$   Inverse elements for product      \(\ds \forall x \in F^*: \exists x^{-1} \in F^*:\) \(\ds x \circ x^{-1} = 1_F = x^{-1} \circ x \)      
\((\text D)\)   $:$   Product is distributive over addition      \(\ds \forall x, y, z \in F:\) \(\ds x \circ \paren {y + z} = \paren {x \circ y} + \paren {x \circ z} \)      

These are called the field axioms.


The distributand $+$ of a field $\struct {F, +, \times}$ is referred to as field addition, or just addition.


The distributive operation $\times$ in $\struct {F, +, \times}$ is known as the (field) product.

Also defined as

Some sources do not insist that the field product of a field is commutative.

That is, what they define as a field, $\mathsf{Pr} \infty \mathsf{fWiki}$ defines as a division ring.

When they wish to refer to a field in which the field product is commutative, the term commutative field is used.


Field (Abstract Algebra)/Examples

Also see

  • Results about field theory can be found here.

Linguistic Note

Note that while in English the word for this entity is field, its name in other European languages translates as body.

The original work was done by Richard Dedekind, who used the word Körper. When translating his work into English, Eliakim Moore mistakenly used the word field.

The translator into French did not make the same mistake.


Field is translated:

In Dutch: lichaam  (literally: body)
In Dutch: veld  (literally: field)
In French: corps  (literally: body)
In German: Körper  (literally: body)
In Russian: Поле  (literally: field)  Pronounced:  póh-lye
In Spanish: campo  (literally: field)
In Spanish: cuerpo  (literally: body)